Every morning I go for a long walk along the bike path and I encounter all kinds of other people walking, biking, roller blading, skateboarding, running, and dog-walking.
On Sunday I encountered a run-down, rickety sex worker at the intersection of Merivale and the bike path. She was skeletal and appeared to be a bit delusional, and she was scratching her arms compulsively. She had sores. I thought about her briefly.
A few minutes later, while walking through the forested area, I saw a man on the path heading in my direction. He was large and bald and he was wearing nothing but shorts and shoes. He looked menacing. Perhaps that was because he was boxing. He was beating an invisible foe with all his might – uppercut, left hook, jab jab jab. As we moved closer to each other, I could see the ferocious look in his eyes and the sweat spraying off him.
In all likelihood he was just working out by shadowboxing, but I wondered if he had any idea how intimidating he looked to a woman walking alone through a forest and forced to share the six-foot wide path with him? If I were him, I’d have stopped boxing for a few seconds as I approached someone else, smiled, said hi, done something, anything, to make myself appear less threatening. But no. He kept doing exactly what he was doing, as did I, and we moved past each other without incident. I thought about him briefly.
An hour or so later, on my way back, somewhere between the two spots where I’d seen the boxer and the sex worker, I came across a pool of fresh blood. It hadn’t been there earlier. My inner detective surveyed the scene and began to speculate.
A collision of bikes? A roller-blading wipe-out? The boxer punched the sex worker? The sex worker stabbed the boxer?
And that’s when I realized something very interesting about how I perceive myself in the world. Normally, as I walk along the bike path (or anywhere else for that matter), I think of myself as moving through geographical space. When I encounter other people, I experience them as temporary and static. I move through their spaces, and then they’re gone and I continue, the centre of my own universe.
Suddenly I realized that they continue too, and they all encounter each other. The bike path is like two conveyer belts moving in opposite directions. We all move through one another’s worlds, and we all continue, the centre of our own universes.
So I didn’t just encounter the sex trade worker and the boxer. They encountered me, and they probably encountered each other too.
Somehow this shift in perspective, though it seems like it should have been obvious all along, changes everything.
Do you know what I mean?